As state funding for mental health services decline, more and more people suffering from mental illness are ending up in jails— putting corrections officers, like Deion Hood, on the frontline.
"Most of the time I’m always laughing, joking, goofing, making sure everyone is cool,” Hood told Kansas City-based KSHB.
Hood’s talkative personality is now being credited for helping de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation.
In October, an inmate suffering from mental illness began having hallucinations. The voices inside of his head told him to hurt himself, so the jail’s Behavioral Health Team jumped into action.
Hood was escorting the mental health therapist. He stood outside the inmate’s cell for over an hour. He began talking to the inmate about basketball, football and church. Then the two started singing hymns, including Amazing Grace.
"I was walking through what we were trained to do,” he said.
Every new hire at the jail goes through Behavioral Health Training.
Jackson County Detention Center Statistics:
- 0 suicides in the jail since 2007
- 13 percent of felony inmates have a serious mental illness
- 14 percent are taking psychotropic medication
- 24 percent of inmates in the municipal jail have a serious mental illness
- 24 percent are taking psychotropic medication
Shannon Moss, a therapist with Truman Behavioral Health, teaches staff what symptoms they can look out for, such as an inmate not sleeping or eating. Moss also teaches the staff how to respond appropriately.
“Everyone’s mental illness is at different levels so we never see the same symptoms with different people,” she said. "There is a variety so when we have people working with them what we like to see is that empathetic response so you can adjust to what is going on with them.”
Jackson County’s Director of Corrections Joe Piccinini told 41 Action News the county would like to have every officer undergo 40 hours of yearly training, including Behavioral Health training. Piccinini said he hopes to be able to implement that in the future.
Ariel Rothfield can be reached at Ariel.Rothfield@KSHB.com.